Golf is a sport like no other. For some it ruins a nice walk whereas for others it is a real passion. It is a sport that requires little athletic ability meaning the strongest and fittest are those who have practised, honed and refined their style. As such it bucks the trend of sports in which a new generation is continually raising the standards and shortening the careers of older players.

This can clearly be demonstrated through the case of two men from Northern Ireland. On the one hand there is 22 year old Rory McIlroy. McIlroy topped the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 2007, won on the European Tour in 2009, represented Europe in the Ryder Cup and won the US Open last month. An impressive talent, he is also a media darling and generally an exciting prospect for the future of golf.

…the Open, Clarke’s 20th attempt, was dominated by more established players…

Then there is Darren Clarke. At 42 he is not the most youthful on the tour but having comfortably won the 140th Open Championship at Royal St. Georges this week he has demonstrated that he has not been left behind. In fact the Open, Clarke’s 20th attempt, was dominated by more established players on the tour such as Thomas Bjørn and Tom Watson while McIlroy finished the final day tied in 25th position.

Clarke commented “It’s been a long journey. I’m not getting any younger” which is more of a sign of his cheerful and likeable character than a groundbreaking admission. He had won the Alfred Dunhill Open when McIlroy was only 4 years old but has remained a popular member of the Tour throughout his career. So popular, that as he approached the final round he received a raft of texts encouraging and supporting his efforts; notably from McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

 …Clarke has experienced highs and lows at both a professional and personal level…

In his illustrious sporting career Clarke has experienced highs and lows at both a professional and personal level; he lost his wife Heather to cancer in 2006, which left him to raise his two sons alone. He proudly put his family first, missing major tournaments in order to care for Heather during her illness and dedicated his Open Championship win to her as well as to Tyrone and Conor.

He is thus considered to be a popular and deserving winner of this most prestigious of golfing competitions and has demonstrated that success is not reliant upon youth and fitness. Lessons can also be learnt from the way that he balances a competitive outlook with good sportsmanship. Such a lesson would be appropriate for some of the younger blood within sport who have struggled to find such a balance.

Image courtesy of Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy


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